Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Delta Air Lines announced Thursday it will buy a minority stake in private jet manager Wheels Up to form one of the largest private jet fleets in the world.
Delta, the only major U.S. carrier with a private jet subsidiary, operates Delta Private Jet out of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
"The transaction will pair Wheels Up's membership programs, innovative digital platform and world-class lifestyle experiences with Delta Private Jets' renowned reliability, safety, service and scale," Delta said in a statement.
The airline said the combined company will operate more than 190 private aircraft and serve more than 8,000 customers.
"This groundbreaking partnership will democratize private aviation -- making the convenience of private jet travel accessible to more consumers," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. "This agreement is the latest step in Delta's ongoing effort to build partnerships that extend Delta's brand beyond its core business."
Delta said the deal should close early next year.
"Bringing together our complementary businesses, which represent the best consumer brands in private and commercial aviation, is transformative and a first for the industry," Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter said in a statement.
Delta acquired Comair Jet Express in 1984 and changed the name of its private jet service to Delta AirElite. The name changed again to Delta Private Jets after merging with Segrave Aviation in 2010.
Wheels Up said it serves 6,700 customers in North America.